Tampa RNC Event Draws Bill of Rights Supporters
Two hours before the night’s headliner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, took to the stage for a speech televised across the country and beamed across the world by satellite, a little noticed group of permitted protesters gathered peacefully in Tampa, Fla.
They were about three blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the Republican National Convention, at the closest point in their march. The parade route itself, carefully drawn by Tampa municipal officials to keep any disruptions to delegates to a minimum, was restricted to the general public, so the 300 union members marching in support of America’s Second Bill of Rights on the second day of the Republican National Convention had practically no one – except a large contingent of Homeland Security and other security personnel – to distribute their fliers to.
But through the deserted streets they marched, carrying a 6-foot-square banner enumerating the Bill of Rights, which outlines a broad agenda to help restore the American dream: the right to full employment and a living wage, the right to full participation in the electoral process, the right to a voice at work, the right to a quality education and the right to a secure, healthy future.
With nearly 50,000 signatures from online supporters and an Aug. 11 rally in Philadelphia, the goal was to deliver a message to politicians and the public.
Said Brian Thompson of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:
We had a lot of fun. We chanted union songs, we kept it civil. We wanted to be professional and get our message out there about what the bill of rights was. And it was bi-partisan. If we could get a Republican to sign that bill, we welcomed them to do it.
In attendance were mostly labor union affiliates of the West Central (Tampa) Central Trade Council standing out in neon yellow T-shirts - comprised of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; the Communication Workers of America; the National Association of Letter Carriers; the American Postal Workers Union; the United Association; the IBEW; and others.
Their ranks were thinner due to Hurricane Isaac’s pummeling of the Gulf Coast and Florida’s West Coast two days earlier, leaving tens of thousands without power, and pulling Tampa’s IBEW utility members onto storm duty.
The Republican delegation, which a day earlier had drafted the most conservative, anti-union platform in the history of the Republican Party, remained oblivious to the labor gathering outside.
Other than one or two people that may have been walking [along the parade route] from time to time, no one from the convention was around. That is fitting. It mirrors the reception we received from the party at the August 11th rally and reflects their disregard of the working people in general.